Shorter University, a private Christian university in Rome, GA, recently updated its personal conduct policy for its employees to include the following:
I agree to adhere to and support the following principles (on or off the campus):
- I will be loyal to the mission of Shorter University as a Christ-centered institution affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.
- I will not engage in the use, sale, possession, or production of illegal drugs.
- I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.
- I will not use alcoholic beverages in the presence of students, and I will abstain from serving, from using, and from advocating the use of alcoholic beverages in public (e.g. in locations that are open to use by the general public, including as some examples restaurants, concert venues, stadiums, and sports facilities) and in settings in which students are present or are likely to be present. I will not attend any University sponsored event in which I have consumed alcohol within the last six hours. Neither will I promote or encourage the use of alcohol.
The first two items need no commentary. It is understandable that an institution expects its employees to be committed to its principles and mission and to avoid using illegal substances. Problematic in the policy are lines 3 and 4.
Line 4 is more comical than concerning. It seems that they have taken Jesus’ instructions about praying in secret (Mt 6) and applied it to alcohol consumption. “As long as you’ll keep it private, we won’t have to ask and you won’t need to tell, so just do us all a favor and drink in secret.”
It recalls the joke about taking Baptists fishing. You always want to take at least two with you, the joke says, because if you take two neither will drink any beer, but if you take just one they’ll drink all the beer.
What I find problematic is line 3 in which employees must reject “all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible.” The statement is intended to reject premarital sex, adultery and homosexuality, as the policy makes clear. However, it stands to reason that if employees must reject all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, then they should accept all sexual activity in agreement with the Bible.
Polygamy is practiced and, as far as I can tell, never condemned (e.g. Gen 16). Men and women are said to become “one flesh” (Gen 2.24), however, as Walter Wink pointed out, the Hebrew bible places no limits on the number of people with whom a man can become “one flesh.” Ironically, there does seem to be a restriction for women since adultery is always defined by the woman’s martial status, never the man’s (cf. Lev 20.10; Deut 22.22ff). Deuteronomy 25.5-6 contains a requirement that the brother of a man who dies without children must marry his wife and produce children to continue his brother’s name. It seems an important standard since one man who refused to do so was put to death (Gen 38.9). Finally, Leviticus 20 calls for the death of the sexually deviant.
I assume the policymakers at Shorter would not desire to compel their employees to follow these practices in order to work for them. Few would likely sign a document that allowed men (but not women) to practice polygamy, restricted adultery to women, required a brother to marry a deceased brother’s wife and demanded the death of all deemed sexually deviant. The question remains: If you require your employees to reject what the Bible rejects regarding sexuality, must you not require them to accept what the Bible accepts and commands?
The variety of sexual mores in the Bible creates a problem for this university, because it reveals an inconsistent application of the sacred texts they claim to revere so highly and adhere to so closely.
In other words, can you refuse to require employees to accept the sexual standards found in the Bible such as polygamy (a practice implicitly accepted throughout the bible), the injunction for the brotherly prolongation of a family line (a practice explicitly commanded in Deuteronomy 25), and stoning to death anyone deemed sexually deviant by the dominant group of the day (a command explicitly set forth in Leviticus 20) while requiring employees to agree to reject sexual standards said to be condemned in the Bible?
There is nothing wrong with a Christian university turning to the Bible when writing their employee policies. However, policymakers ought to read through the Bible a bit more closely before they ascend to their lofty pedestal to write their policies. Otherwise, they might put themselves in an uncomfortable situation when their employees start practicing what the Bible accepts and/or commands.